The Detroit Lions crushing collapse at the end of the 2013 season costed the team a playoff spot, and it also unsurprisingly caused disappointing head coach Jim Schwartz to be fired. One of the league’s best defensive coordinators, Schwartz was hired by the Buffalo Bills to replace another stalwart DC in Mike Pettine, who is now the Cleveland Browns head coach. Both Schwartz and gunslinging quarterback Matthew Stafford received plenty of criticism for their roles in the Lions slide at the end of the season, but it’s always important to remember just how brilliant Stafford was during the first half of the regular season.
Schwartz is obviously going to back up Stafford when asked and won’t say anything negative about his former franchise QB, but the way in which he defended Stafford in a recent interview is notable. He told 104.5 FM Nashville, via MLive.com’s Josh Slagter, “Matt’s an outstanding quarterback. He led us to the playoffs. Just about every record in the Lions’ offense, total offense and passing offense was set by Stafford in the last three years.
“He’s going to lead that team to many great things in the future. Everybody has some rough spots here and there, and it’s up to the rest of the team to pick you up.”
It’s great to see that Schwartz is backing up Stafford big-time here, and I also think it would be unwise to pin it all on him. He did play poorly during the home stretch of the regular season, but it’s not like the secondary or his wide receivers were any better. The Lions are in a much better position to help take Stafford to the next level, because he clearly needs polish due to inconsistent mechanics and decision-making, as well as poor footwork. Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi should help him become a much better quarterback, as Stafford has all the arm talent (both strength and accuracy) to be a top-five level quarterback in this league. And with those two in tote, he has no choice but to improve on the finer points of his game, which will allow him to avoid making mistakes and going into cold streaks and inopportune times.